SULLIVAN — In the depths of a Maine winter, it can be difficult navigating an icy porch or yard. That’s especially true for elderly or disabled people who can’t lug around a heavy bag of sand.
There’s a solution in Sullivan, however, where Town Manager Rob Eaton has been delivering buckets of sand to residents in need of assistance.
“These are little things that people struggle with,” Eaton said. “Maybe they can get sand somewhere but can’t carry it, or maybe they can’t get it at all. But this is something we can do to help.”
Eaton said he first heard of similar programs in larger communities such as Saco and Augusta, and decided to do something similar in Sullivan. At first there were two volunteers, and then two more.
“I’d love to have to grow the program,” Eaton said. “I’ve been amazed at how many people have responded so far. A lot of it has been someone’s relatives calling us so we can check in on them, and that’s part of making people feel like they’re really in a community.”
Around 10 buckets have been delivered so far, and Eaton said he hoped to have around two dozen delivered by the end of winter.
“If you can’t do it, call us, and we’ll make sure to get out to you,” Eaton said.
On a recent Friday afternoon, Eaton loaded up his car with some buckets, each adorned with a “Sullivan Cares” decal, and a list of addresses.
“I’m hoping to consolidate the process a bit,” said Eaton, shoveling sand at the town’s transfer station. “That way we can have plenty of these ready to go at the town office.”
With three buckets filled, Eaton was ready to start making deliveries.
“Rural isolation can be a really bad cycle,” Eaton said. “So this is something that can keep our citizens feeling connected and not so alone.”
According to U.S. Census data from 2015, almost half of Maine residents 65 and older live alone. Even for those with a companion, in rural communities it can difficult for elderly or disabled people to get around and get access to services that they need. That’s especially true in winter, which is part of what Eaton hopes these deliveries will alleviate.
At each stop, residents greeted Eaton warmly as he brought a bucket of sand to their door.
“I’m really glad that you’re doing this,” said Sullivan resident Cheryl Marshall. “Thank you so much.”
At each stop, Eaton assured residents that they could call if they started to run low, and he or another volunteer would make sure to visit them.
“We want to keep trying to find ways to remove these stressors on people’s lives,” Eaton said. “And I hope this is something that can do that.”